From a pick to win their first game by current President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama, to the team’s famous Shania Twain shoutout, to the whirlwind of a week since winning the Pac-12 tournament, the Washington State women’s basketball team took to the mic ahead of its first NCAA tournament game today.
Here are some highlights from Friday’s news conference before the fifth-seeded Cougars (23-10) face 12th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast (32-3) at 11:30 a.m. Pacific (ESPNU) at Finneran Pavilion in Villanova, Pa.
On President Biden picking them to win their first game
Senior forward Ula Motuga: “I think it’s cool to see a bunch of different public figures tuning in. It just shows the support they have for women’s basketball especially, and I think it’s awesome that more people are buying into creating a bracket. I think (WNBA star) A’ja Wilson had one, Barack (Obama) always does one and he had us going an extra game, so thank you Barack Obama (laughs). It’s awesome, the support is truly amazing.”
On the quick switch from the Pac-12 championship to locking in for the NCAA tournament
Junior guard Charlisse Leger-Walker: “I think it’s been pretty much a whirlwind of a week, obviously coming off a big high winning the Pac-12 championship. Obviously we celebrated that for what it was but leading up this tournament, we all had to switch mindsets a little bit and start to lock in a lot more on what we’re here to do.”
On how the Shania Twain shoutout came about.
Motuga: “We truly are a team of karaoke. (During) the bus ride, no doubt somebody’s got a speaker going, then other people will sing along. Some can sing, some cannot (laughs), but it’s fun. It’s something that brings us together. … The Shania thing, it just happened before a game. I played it and everyone was like ‘This is a pretty cool song’ … and then it just became a trend (before every game).”
On Florida Gulf Coast
Leger-Walker: “They’re a great team. We’ve been watching a lot of their film over the past week. I think they’re kind of used to being in these situations. They win their conference a lot and they’ve been here the past couple of years. They’re used to be the 12th seed and having to play against the (No.) 5 seed, so I think they’re really well experienced in that area. Watching film, they’re more of a run-and-gun team. They like to get up a lot of 3s in transition and get to the rim. … I think for us, we have to focus on playing a lot of team defense and making sure we’re finding people in transition, not letting them have really easy open looks from 3.”
On why WSU coach Kamie Ethridge chose to lead the struggling Cougars when she took the job 2018
Ethridge: “First off, just got my start late in my career. I took the long path. So many coaches get way early in their career, so I’m real grateful for taking a little bit longer. … Washington State came open and quite honestly, Texas education, I didn’t even know where the state of Washington probably was at the time (laughs). … But what drew me is sitting in a meeting with athletic director Pat Chun (and president Kirk Schulz) and their commitment to trying to make women’s basketball relevant. … Honestly, the thing that drew me to Washington State were the people in the room that said, ‘This is our vision and we’ll give you the time and the space to make us relevant in women’s basketball.’ And they’ve done that and we’ve been fortunate to bring in some really great players.”